Tag Archive | William Beckford

Ackendown Great House


 On the way back to Kingston, after a weekend hunting great houses in Hanover, we decided to track down Ackendown Castle which is supposed to be located across from the entrance of Whitehouse Sandals. Sure enough, we turned onto a road between two posts, headed up the hill and found the Ackendown Great House. The chain link gate was standing open so we parked our vehicle and headed toward the most obvious structure on the property, the great house. The house is abandoned, so I dutifully took pictures of the great house from all directions and even drew out a house plan.

The house appears to have had major modifications over the years. The original house was built (1750) prior to Archibald Campbell’s birth (1781-1833). It consisted of the back rooms on a square-cut stone and brick foundation that made up the original house. On top of this building appears to be wood and lime plaster construction (Spanish walling). It was connected by a paved courtyard to the kitchen outbuilding. It had a semi-circular stairs at the front of the house. The original roof was probably a gable roof that ran east and west. The back rooms which don’t have a basement are presently being used as a horse barn. More than a century ago (1878) Andrew Stephen Aguilar added a front wing with its separate east-west gable roof. This wing had a full basement made of cut stone and contains an oven on the east wall. Sydney Aguilar added east and west wings and converted the gable roofs into hip roofs (1920). Further additions were made at a later date to the rear on both the east and west (1950).   Most of the wood flooring is missing, leaving the basement open to the second floor of the south addition. In the living room, the wall wood supports are exposed and painted brown, with white plaster between the boards. The house is painted white with brown louvered windows. There is a large porch with stone steps on the front forming an arch beneath the floor.

It is thought that John and James Guthrie owned the property between 1710 and 1757. The Guthries were an important historical family in Jamaica. Between 1757 and 1784 the property was owned by William Beckford. From there the ownership gets somewhat muddled but eventually the property ends up in the ownership of the Campbells who supposedly built the Ackendown Castle. From 1869 to 1878, R. F. Thomas was the owner and then from 1978 to recently it was owned by the Aguilar family.

There is evidence of numerous buildings scattered around the property, including several storerooms connected by a pimento barbeque (a flat area for drying pimento). This would indicate that at one time, the plantation was used to produce pimento. West of the house is the Negro house piece where mounds of the previous houses are still visible. The July 1837 plan shows 32 structures averaging 15 feet x 20 feet in size scattered over nine acres. The plan also shows the fourteen acre provision grounds where the slaves grew their own food.

The great house is easy to find, directly across from the Whitehouse Sandals Resort gate. I wonder how many people, staying at the resort know that such an interesting structure is within a short walking distance?


Ackendown Great House Layout

Ackendown Great House Layout

Ackendown Great House Photo Gallery

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Drax Hall Great House

Our Visit to the Drax Hall Great House

Bonita and I were on the hunt for the Drax Hall Great House for two weekends. The owners of every store, apartment building and hotel in the neighborhood of the great house named their establishment Drax Hall…something. We found that villages and neighborhoods assume the name of the original estate or great house. There is a plethora of towns named after the great house or pen house such as Amity Hall, Brown’s Hall, Carron Hall, Dean Pen, Fellowship Hall, Giddy Hall, etc., whether or not the great house or pen still exists. The names give us a target area to look for great houses but on the other hand may send us on many a “wild goose chase.” Finally, we discovered that all that was left of the great Drax estate was the ruins of the water wheel for the sugar works.

In 1669, William Drax founded the Drax Hall Estate. Drax came to Jamaica from Barbados. Upon William Drax’s death in 1691, he passed the estate on to his son, Charles Drax who owned the estate until he died in 1721. William Beckford acquired Drax Hall Estate in 1722 from Samuel Reynolds, Charles Drax’s brother-in-law. William Beckford’s acquisition of the estate initiated a period of nearly 60 years of absentee ownership, first by Beckford, until his death in 1770, and then by his son William Beckford, owner from 1771 to 1821. The senior Beckford was said to be the richest planter in Jamaica. At his death, he owned nine sugar plantations and was part owner of seven more as well as nine cattle pens and a house in Spanish Town. (In a latter blog, I plan to report on the system of absentee landowners and their representatives left in charge of the estate known as their attorneys. Many times the owner’s foreman lived in the great house and never the owner.) In 1821, Drax Hall passed from the Beckford family to John H. Pink, who died in 1841. The Sewell family later purchased Drax Hall Estate.

Because Drax Hall was founded as a sugar estate, it’s not surprising to see that the property also features an impressive and well-preserved water wheel that drove two stone rollers. These rollers crushed the sugar cane and out flowed sugar juice. Heating this juice produced sugar, which remained after the liquid evaporated. The water for the wheel flowed from a dam on the Saint Ann Great River, which marked the western edge of the estate. The water wheel greatly boosted the productivity of the estate. Although Drax founded Drax Hall as a sugar plantation, subsequent owners switched to bananas and cattle in the 1880s and coconuts in 1905.

An 18th Century View of Drax Hall Estate. St. Ann, Jamaica in 1765. It shows the original 18th Century Great House on the hill overlooking the Sugar Works. From a Manuscript Plan of Drax Hall Estate surveyed by George Wilson in 1758, which includes a later pictorial cartouche dated 1765. Collection: The National Library of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica.

Drax Hall Great House Photo Gallery

Drax Hall Great House Location Map